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Weekly Roundup: Haiti’s Road to Recovery and India’s Recent Milestone

   /   Jan 13th, 2012News, Weekly Roundup

Two Years Later, Haiti is Regaining her Strength

Two years ago, a 7.0 earthquake shook Haiti, destroying the country and killing over 300,000 people.  Then, the country faced another disaster-  a devastating cholera outbreak.  Today, however, the news is more optimistic.

Wash Post reports: “Almost a million people have moved out of the increasingly dangerous tent cities. Some were pushed. But most were pulled away by programs that offered rent subsidies or home-repair assistance.

But 500,000 people remain under tarps. About 20,000 still live in a squalid camp in downtown Port-au-Prince, their once-crisp tents, stamped USAID, now soiled gray and sagging in the heat in front of the collapsed National Palace.

Some of their kids are at least going to school. Haiti is providing free education for 900,000 children, many of whom have never been in a classroom before. The program is immensely popular, as are the free school buses.”

Guardian points out that Haiti, which has been largely aid dependent to get back on its feet, is moving away from that model to one of sustainability and self-sufficiency.  How so?

“[T]he island’s narrative may be slowly shifting from one of aid dependency to one of proactive self-help. The government is embarking on a multipronged initiative to combat cholera, permanently rehouse the displaced people, improve infrastructure, and stimulate the economy through a drive on job creation.”

A significant portion of that growth seems to be coming from the private section, according to the Guardian, which cites that a number of multinational corporations have invested in the country, hoping that their commercial ventures will bring social and economic impact to the fractured economy.  Is it social enterprise?  In the traditional view, no.  Can it have social impact?  Yes.   Is it the best route?   Here’s a counterargument from the Guardian’s Doucet, placing caution ahead of praise for Haiti’s route ahead:

“‘Haiti is open for business’ is the new government’s motto: but more than half a million people displaced by the earthquake still languish in two-year-old tent camps with no water and sanitation facilities, while almost 80,000 houses deemed damaged beyond repair have been reoccupied.”

Doucet goes on to explain that textile manufacturing has become the source of employment for many Haitians.  Yet, it pays little, barely enough for food and transportation.

Canada’s CBC News also pointed to the country’s struggle to rebuild homes and rebuild them smartly to avoid future earthquakes.    One proposal included using shipping containers and refashioning them as homes, even temporary ones – a design that’s being used by eco-friendly businesses in the US even.  But, cost and feasibility are the focus and that’s not necessarily cheaper or more feasible given the poor infrastructure.

So, the debate is still on – did the international aid money work, did it go to the right places, will Haiti have a sustainable, self-reliant future, will the private sector drive the economy ahead — all questions are yet to be answered.

India Touches a New Milestone: One Year, Polio-Free

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative began in 1985 with Rotary’s initiative.  Three years later, UNICEF, WHO, and the CDC came on board creating a partnership with Rotary to eradicate polio from the world.  Little did they know that 20 plus years later, they’d still be fighting the disease.   In fact, Rotary termed the effort, PolioPlus, hoping that once polio was eradicated, they’d move onto the next disease.  However, to date, polio has remained in four countries: Nigeria, Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan.    In order to be polio-free, a country must not have had a single case for three years consecutively.

India just completed the first year without a single case of polio.  The country that was considered the hotbed of the disease and the origin of many other cases around the world is now one step closer to be polio-free.   The UK’s Globe and Mail narrates how it happened.

Bill Gates, who came on board with the polio effort in more recent years, has become a face for the cause in many ways, meeting with foreign dignitaries, traveling to polio-endemic towns, speaking at conferences – all to bring awareness to a disease that’s been largely forgotten in the developed world.  Here’s what he had to say to Forbes on this milestone.

Weekend Reads:

  • A special report on Haiti by GOOD’s Alex Goodmark.
  • National Geographic’s photoessay of a story from Haiti of hope and restoration.
  • Does social enterprise need a stronger definition to avoid misrepresentation?  The Guardian Socent blog explores this question.
  • Why do social entrepreneurs and government come into conflict? Sree Kumar of Intellecap cites examples from India’s microfinance scare in SSIR.

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